The Korea Herald

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Dead man's confession of gang rape rejected as evidence

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : May 7, 2024 - 15:56

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The Supreme Court recently overturned a lower court ruling that found three men guilty of group rape, based on the written confession left by another man before his death.

South Korea's highest court said the note left by the deceased cannot be used as evidence of the sexual crime in a criminal case, saying its credibility has not sufficiently been verified.

The deceased, who died at his apartment in Seoul in 2021, had apologized in what is thought to be a suicide note that he and three other friends got a younger girl drunk and raped her in 2006. Police launched an investigation on suspicion of "quasi-rape" -- a term defined as sexual intercourse while taking advantage of the victim's inability to resist, which carries the same punishment as rape.

The woman pinpointed as the victim in the note testified that she went home drunk on the day of the supposed crime, and that blood was on her underwear. She was prescribed an emergency contraceptive pill by a local physician the next day, but was not confirmed by medical authorities as having been raped.

Based on the findings, prosecutors charged the three men. After the district court found the note unsuitable as evidence, the appellate court sentenced them each to two years and six months in prison.

"It cannot be definitively said that the deceased wrote the notes with a clear intent to repent for his own crime. ... He had never mentioned the case to anyone, including to a friend who he had a drink with the day before his death, and it is possible that he wrote the note to ensure criminal punishment of the three defendants," the Supreme Court said in its ruling, saying it is unclear if the note tells the complete truth.

The court also pointed out that the deceased had never been investigated by the authorities, and that there is a possibility that his memory had been distorted over time. It also took issue with the fact that the content of the note was too vague, and some of it contradicted the victim's testimony.

The case was sent back to the Seoul High Court, which will hold legal proceedings on the case. The chance of a guilty verdict is very low, given that the note of the deceased had been the only evidence.